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Ask A Bear: Will Beeswax Waterproofing Attract You?

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

Q: I'm looking at recipes for DIY waterproofing of canvas trail tarps and many use beeswax in the mix. Bears like honey, but what about beeswax? I'm not talking about burning a beeswax candle and dispersing the smell all around the woods, but I am asking if having a pound or two of stable beeswax soaked into my canvas would be attractive to bears or cause them to investigate my shelter? Thanks! —Dave, via email

A: Dear Dave,

My love for honey is the stuff of legend and children’s stories. But it goes far beyond the sticky stuff: Young bees, pupae, and bee larvae offer loads of fat and protein to help me survive my long winter’s nap. Both kinds of my kin you are likely to run into (black and brown) go to great lengths to raid beehives – both in the wild, and in beekeepers’ hives on the edges of my domain. In fact, beehives offer such a high caloric return-on-investment that once I dip my snout in one, I’m likely to seek them out like a honey fiend. I’ll endure stings all over my face and nose (they can’t really penetrate my thick fur) to get at a hive. It’s worth a few pricks in the face for tens of thousands of calories.

All of which makes your proposition an edgy one. Raw beeswax retains a scent – maybe one that you can’t detect, but one that my super-smelling ursid nose very likely can (even some humans can detect a honey-like scent). That doesn’t mean it will necessarily arouse my interest. In some colder zones of my wild range like Alaska or the North Woods, bees rarely form colonies that last long enough for me to develop a taste for honey. As long as I haven’t raided a beekeepers’ hive, I might not recognize the scent as a neon sign for “food bonanza.” And it’s possible other scents – like your humanity, but hopefully not your chili – would overwhelm my desire to investigate your canvas. But it’s a risk, and considering bee-related snacks are right up there with salmon on my favorite-foods list, it’s not one to wholly brush off. My advice: Skip the homemade beeswax and waterproof your tent with an over-the-counter waterproofer (like Nikwax or KIWI). If DIY options are a must, try a natively waterproof (and lighter!) nylon tarp – or experiment with paraffin wax and lanolin. If all-natural, non-chemical waxes are top of your concern, consider a processed beeswax solution like Otterwax.

In the end, beeswax is probably not the most pressing concern, especially if you’re following proper food storage techniques, etc. But if you use beeswax, I can’t 100-percent guarantee you my bruin brothers will be on their best bee-havior.

—Bear

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Farquarr
Dec 18, 2013

Great answer. Best to avoid anything with a scent in bear country. Plus, beeswax dries out quickly and becomes brittle; then flakes off

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Farquarr
Dec 18, 2013

Great answer. Best to avoid anything with a scent in bear country. Plus, beeswax dries out quickly and becomes brittle; then flakes off

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